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2019 Columbus Blue Jackets training camp battles: Wingers

Which young players look poised to step forward and earn a spot on the roster for the 2019-20 season

NHL Prospects Tournament Day-4 Columbus vs Dallas Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome to our continuing coverage of training camp battles for the 2019-20 Columbus Blue Jackets roster. Today, we will be covering the wings, and those young players battling to replace Artemi Panarin’s production on the roster.

With several spots open, who will grab those positions and earn a spot on the roster this preseason?

On the roster

Josh Anderson
2018-19 Player Review

Josh Anderson took another step forward during the 2018-19 season, posting his most prolific season of his career en route to scoring 27 goals and 47 points as well as playing all 82 games over the course of the season. Anderson will be entering the final season of his year looking to take a step forward and earn a significant pay increase on his next contract. Anderson will likely see time in the middle six as his play dictates, either on the second or third line, and will have a chance to solidify his spot on the second line if he can take it.

Cam Atkinson
2018-19 Player Review

Cam Atkinson had his best offensive season of his career in 2018-19. After missing time with a broken foot and struggling during the previous season, Atkinson exploded for a career high 69 points while matching the franchise record with 41 goals in 80 games played. Atkinson will be counted on to produce at a high level again this year with the absence of Artemi Panarin looming large. Atkinson, unquestionably the top line right wing, cannot afford to show a dip in his scoring touch.

Oliver Bjorkstrand
2018-19 Player Review

Oliver Bjorkstrand started slowly last season, but ended the year on a tear. After scoring just 11 points in his first 34 games last season (to the disappointment of fans and the coaching staff alike), Bjorkstrand finished the season with 21 points in his final 32 games games. In all, Bjorkstrand posted a 23-13-36 scoreline for the Jackets. With Artemi Panarin now having ventured off to the Big Apple, Bjorkstrand will have to find a way to produce at a consistently high level over the course of the season. His talent is undeniable - now he just has to find a way to make his scoring impact felt on a nightly basis for the club.

Nick Foligno
2018-19 Player Review

Nick Foligno had a tumultuous season off the ice last year as issues with his daughter’s health kept him away from the team down the stretch (thankfully, his daughter Milana is healthy now after having a heart valve replaced). On the ice, Foligno averaged 17:42 per night while producing no better than a third liner. Foligno posted a 17-18-35 line and found most of his consistency once he was placed on the third line next to Boone Jenner. Foligno may be the captain of the team, but the coaching staff needs to better utilize him this season in a more fitting role.

Markus Hannikainen
Contract Extension Details

Markus Hannikainen played just 44 games for the Jackets last season in an injury shortened campaign. In those 44 games, he averaged just 9:29 per night and posted a 4-3-7 line before he was injured and then squeezed out of the lineup with new arrivals. Hannikainen, on a one year, $750,000 deal, will need a good showing this season to earn a roster spot for 2020-21 with all of the young wingers on the roster breathing down his neck. Otherwise, he might find himself in the press box this season more often than not.

Gustav Nyquist
Welcoming the New Signing

Gustav Nyquist spent the 2018-19 season with the Detroit Red Wings before being traded to the San Jose Sharks at the deadline. Nyquist put up 22 goals and 38 assists for a career best 60 points over the course of the season; he also scored 11 points in 20 games for the Sharks. He comes to the Jackets on a 4 year deal and is expected to start the season with Alexander Wennberg in an attempt to get the struggling Swedish center going.

Eric Robinson
2018-19 Player Review
2019 Top 25 Under 25

Eric Robinson played 13 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, posting no points for the team while averaging 11:50 per night. Curiously, Robinson was not moved to Cleveland in a paper transaction for the AHL playoffs and could not help the farm team. After signing a one year deal, it remains to be seen if he will crack the lineup regularly for the team in his second full season with the team.

Trying to make the roster

Emil Bemstrom
2019 Top 25 Under 25

Emil Bemstrom, a 23 goal scorer in 47 games in the SHL last season, comes to Columbus with skating talent and a shot that makes him an offensive zone threat. GM Jarmo Kekalainen has said that Bemstrom will get a shot in Columbus to showcase his talent, and given the exodus of scoring production, the team could use his help.

Marko Dano
Welcome the New Signing

The Blue Jackets signed former first round pick to a one year, two-way deal. In 138 career games, he has posted a 19-26-45 scoreline. Dano may be battling with Robinson for fourth line minutes, but is likely to spend much of the season in the AHL with the Cleveland Monsters (barring a camp breakout or injury situations).

Jakob Lilja
2019 Prospect Watch

Lilja was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Columbus Blue Jackets on June 15, 2019 on a one year entry-level contract. He made 222 career appearances in the SHL where he registered 48 goals and 51 assists. At 26 years old, Lilja is experienced but has never played on North American ice before.

Maxime Fortier
2019 Top 25 Under 25

Maxime Fortier came to the Cleveland Monsters from the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. Fortier, expected to step in and help solidify the Monsters’ scoring, instead struggled and bounced between the Monsters and ECHL’s Jacksonville IceMen. This season, Fortier will be battling to find consistent ice time and production in the lineup for the Monsters.

Paul Bittner
2019 Top 25 Under 25

Paul Bittner, a big left win for the Cleveland Monsters and former second round pick, missed a month of the 2018-19 season due to injury, dealing a blow to the Monsters as he had finally begun to hone his game. He finished the season with 9-22-31 in 50 games for the Monsters. Bittner will likely play with the Monsters again in 2019-20, but strong development and an injury free campaign could see him get a call up to the Blue Jackets, especially with left wing spots open for the taking.

Kole Sherwood
2019 Top 25 Under 25

Kole Sherwood played well for the Monsters in 2018-19, notching 25 points in 56 games (16 goals, 9 assists) and earned a call-up to his hometown Columbus Blue Jackets. Sherwood developed a physical edge to his game and showed a willingness to battle while still producing offensively. At just 22 years old, look for Sherwood to continue to develop.

Trey Fix-Wolansky
2019 Top 25 Under 25

The diminutive winger played in the Western Hockey League last season as a 19 year old and utterly dominated. He scored 37 goals, registered 102 points in 65 games, and was the captain of the Edmonton Oil Kings as he finished runner-up for WHL Player of the Year. After signing a three year entry-level contract, Fix-Wolansky will play for the Cleveland Monsters as he continues to develop despite his 5’7” frame. Fix-Wolansky has scoring talent in bunches, and league trends show that size doesn’t matter as much as it used to. Fans will be keeping a close eye on Fix-Wolansky’s development this season.

Sonny Milano
2019 Top 25 Under 25

Sonny Milano has had a tough year. After appearing in just eight games for the Jackets (1-1-0), he produced big numbers for the Monsters in an injury-filled season (11-13-24) in 27 games played. He then scored 2-8-10 in the playoffs before the Monsters were eliminated. Then, this summer, Milano was charged with third degree assault. Milano may be on his last chance with Columbus as he struggles to fit in with the Jackets and now has legal issues. Milano has to prove that he belongs in the Columbus system or he could find himself facing a change of scenery.

Nathan Gerbe

Nathan Gerbe was signed to a two year, two-way contract extension by the Blue Jackets on March 15, 2018. Entering the final year of his deal, Gerbe will likely spend the majority of his time in Cleveland with the Monsters. Last season, Gerbe played 41 games and posted 10-22-32 to go along with 40 PIM. A veteran with considerable NHL experience, Gerbe will be counted on to provide valuable leadership to the young Monsters.

What wingers are you looking forward to seeing in action? Who would you like to see on the top line with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson?

Stay tuned to The Cannon for more coverage as training camp gets underway. Hockey season is almost here!